Have you ever been to an event where everything seemed to come together seamlessly? The decorations were beautiful. The service was great. People were smiling and happy. The host or hostess conducted themselves with grace, even if you didn’t see them. The lights seemed to accentuate the decorations.

I have. It was a wedding. My friend was getting married and I traveled the distance to her wedding not exactly knowing what to expect. Sometimes, in my experience, weddings can be hectic, stressful, and often bring out the worst in people- not the best. But, everything went smoothly. And, as I sat there wondering why, it finally occurred to me: the planner, the caterers, and the professional team of servers. They took care of everything! It was amazing to see.

So, if you’re in a catering business, have a catering business, or want to start a catering business, here are few simple tips and suggestions for how to give this experience to your customers. And, trust us, by practicing these simple rules, customers will keep coming back to you and give you lots of good free advertisement through word of mouth.

Rule #1: Care about the customers.

People can tell when others aren’t sincere. And when they just want money. It’s difficult to interact with, trust and plan for a catering event with a catering company that only wants to offer you the most expensive things – not what’s best for you. So, when you’re helping plan an event and are going over menu options, decoration themes, place settings, etc., put yourself in your customers' shoes. If you were them- with their tastes, their styles, and their desires- how could you best pull it off? How can you give them what they want? Meet their needs? Give them an experience that will keep them coming back?

Rule #2: Know what you can cook and offer specialty items.

You don’t necessarily need to be proficient in everything to become a cook or caterer, but it is important to have several menu items that you can prepare exceptionally well. Know what you can prepare in a short amount of time, in different locations (outdoor or indoor), and what equipment you need to accomplish it. Knowing this makes deciding what kind of caterer – and who to market to – easy. It allows you to have a direction for every type of catering job you take.

Food

Being able to provide a variety of meats, sides, and desserts are important but not as necessary as being able to offer a specialty item. Offering a specialty item, that only you can make, requires being able to bring yourself to the table. It also weeds out the competition because they can’t do what you do. Anyone can grill a hamburger or roast lamb, but can they accomplish what you can? Know and market what makes you different – special recipes, special dishes, and desserts, or exceptional customer service.

Know what makes you different and own it.

Rule #3: Appearance.

Looks do matter. While making your food taste great is more important than how it looks, you need to be able to present the food in a way that makes people want to eat it. This includes:

Having equipment such as chafers, drink dispensers, etc. to store food in, especially if you are doing a buffet style.

Chef Larry in Catering Uniform

Knowing how to set a table. Know where to place the silverware, drinking glasses, wine glasses, coffee cups and saucers, napkins, etc. It is helpful to know how to fold the napkins in a variety of ways too, letting customers choose which way looks best. You can also offer your customers different types of dishes and silverware to use. While some events may only require plastic ware, some occasions may need commercial grade plates. Know what you can offer and where to get the supplies you need.

Maintaining a professional appearance. Having and enforcing a dress code of some sort can be helpful for making your team seem unified, professional, and efficient. You can use uniforms or have your team stay within a certain color scheme. Blacks and whites often work best because it will match and blend in with any decorations that your customers choose.

These are three simple ways to maintain a professional appearance, but don’t forget food presentation! If you’re not offering a buffet style, dish out the food in a way and in portion sizes that look the most appetizing. If you are having a buffet, have dishes, decorations, and chafers that add to the appearance of the food instead of distracting from it.

Rule #4: Have a good team.

Nothing can be accomplished without a good support team. Hire employees who can help your business grow. Once again, you don’t have to know how to prepare every dish professionally or know every different way to fold a napkin. Put a team in place that can help you get things done quickly without cutting corners. People who can help you cook, set tables, fix drinks, and serve guests. A good team is always there when needed, helping each other and guests without drawing attention to themselves.

Server

This last point, while saved for last, is really the most important. I think that’s why my friend’s wedding seemed so flawless. The servers took care of everything. From dishing out the food, ensuring the decorations were just right and preparing drinks. They took care of everything silently and in the background so that the guests could have a full, enjoyable experience.

For more information about catering and how to cook your menu items seamlessly, read our blog "The Best Convection Ovens for Catering."

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